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Protecting minors and businesses – age verification for online safety

Protecting minors and businesses – age verification for online safety

By Veronica Torres, Worldwide Privacy & Regulatory Counsel and Data Protection Officer at Jumio

How often do children check their credit scores? This is the thought process behind hackers exploiting kids’ information, as minors easily bypass current age verification procedures on digital platforms and distribute their critical data online. Such exploitation underscores a growing concern in our digital age, emphasizing the urgent need for effective age verification to protect minors from these risks.

The digital landscape is rapidly expanding, with the global e-commerce market expected to grow to $8 trillion dollars by 2027. The broadening of online environments provides ample opportunity for users to engage with a variety of websites. However, it also provides minors with easier access to engage with age-restricted websites. With 96 percent of U.S. teens using the internet each day, they’re at an increased risk of being exposed to inappropriate material.

Online fraudsters are provided with opportune moments to trick unsuspecting minors into providing sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers, addresses and other data, in order to commit fraud against them. As more children access age-restricted material, simply clicking “I am 18 years old or older” isn’t going to keep kids’ identities safe. So, what will?

Let’s dive into causes behind the rising identity theft of minors and explore the solutions to combat this problem, including enhanced child protection laws and robust age verification measures organizations can adopt to instill a safer digital environment for all.

Increased access

​Currently, young people encounter content they would consider unsafe, is age-restricted or illegal within 10 minutes of going online. The majority of this material is cited as coming from social media platforms and engaging with users in chats and channels. These interactions not only expose minors to inappropriate material but also to potential online scams. The exposure to such content has been reported to negatively affect the mental health of 69 percent of these minors, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue.

The ease with which minors access restricted content underscores the critical need for more sophisticated age verification technologies to protect their health as well as their data.

Online age verification complexities

Many factors contribute to the absence of effective verification measures, including the technological savviness of today’s generation of kids and their ability to craftily work around age restrictions.

Even more challenging is verifying the age of younger kids, as many children typically do not have established bank accounts, credit or government-issued IDs to confirm their identity. Additionally, while there are no outright bans on collecting biometric data from children, the framework of privacy laws and regulations creates a highly complex environment for businesses. These laws require companies to navigate through numerous strict conditions and compliance measures if they choose to use biometric methods for age verification.

Another challenge recently cited by Gartner includes online platforms requiring parental consent, as many vendors that provide identity and access management solutions do not have fully formed functions to obtain parental consent. Faced with these verification complexities, it’s clear that both legislative and technological advancements are essential in protecting our minors.

With these challenges in mind, how can organizations work toward providing a safer digital environment for children?

Cracking down on online verification

New child protection laws are being created in response to the rise of online scams against minors and the increasing number of kids accessing age-restricted websites. However, these new laws requiring parental consent for minors to access online content pose a challenge for the identity verification market. As mentioned earlier, obtaining parental consent is not a common feature currently offered by most identity verification products.

Gartner’s report cites that 90 percent of vendors are expected to comply with new online data privacy and security regulations by 2027. However, what are the steps organizations can take now to ensure they partner with a vendor that not only provides modern, robust age verification services, but adapts with the evolving regulations imposed on digital environments? As we navigate these challenges, understanding the nuances of age verification across different platforms becomes crucial for businesses aiming to enhance online safety.

Navigating the age verification maze

Many online platforms’ age restrictions vary depending on government regulations and private corporations’ policies. One example would be online delivery services, such as DoorDash’s age restriction policies. Ordering food from DoorDash requires the user to be at least 18 years old, but ordering alcohol requires verification that confirms a user is at least 21 years old before their order is placed.

For websites with age restrictions that typically require users to be old enough to have a government-issued ID, organizations can seek solutions that require robust user onboarding procedures, including the requirement of ID verification and selfie verification during account creation. This will ensure that the person behind the ID is the actual person creating the online account and that they meet minimum age requirements.

This not only helps identify  an underage user but can also be used to verify the age and identity of a parent or guardian providing consent on behalf of a minor.

Organizations should also consider ongoing authentication, which is especially helpful when users monetize content or transfer money. In such cases, the system can trigger an additional ID verification and selfie match to ensure the user attempting the transaction is the same person who created the account, not a fraudster.

Creating a safer digital environment

The digital world is booming — and simultaneously creating complex challenges for organizations to ensure minors’ identities are properly protected. While new child protection laws are a positive step, implementing them requires robust age verification solutions that can adapt to evolving regulations and address the unique challenges of verifying younger users.

By partnering with identity verification providers who stay ahead of the curve, organizations can ensure they comply with regulations and, more importantly, protect children from the dangers lurking online. With modern identity verification practices in place, organizations can help build a digital landscape where everyone, regardless of age, can navigate safely and securely.

About the author

Veronica Torres currently serves as Worldwide Privacy and Regulatory Counsel for Jumio. She provides strategic legal counsel regarding business processes, applications, and technologies to ensure compliance with all privacy laws.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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